updated 02/26/2012 AT 11:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/27/2012 AT 12:00 AM ET
“Oh, no – not her … again,” was what winner Meryl Streep feared those inside L.A.’s Hollywood & Highland Center were thinking on Oscar night. Was she ever wrong.
The actress, who’s been nominated a historic 17 times, won the Best Actress Oscar at Sunday’s 84th annual Academy Awards for The Iron Lady, in which she played former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
When all the gold dust had settled, Hugo went home with five technical Oscars, but the big winner in the major categories was The Artist, which, among its five awards, was named Best Picture of the Year.
The captivating $12 million, mostly silent, black-and-white movie also took the honors for director Michel Hazanavicius, its costume design, musical score and, in his introduction to American audiences, its leading man, Jean Dujardin, who was named Best Actor.
“Formidable! Merci beau coup, I love you!” the handsome Frenchman, 39, shouted. “I love your country.” Before practically losing his breath, Dujardin went on to tell his wife, actress Alexandra Lamy, “I love you.”
The Actress race was perceived to be between Viola Davis in The Help and Streep, who was also the Golden Globe and BAFTA winner for the role. Streep’s two previous Oscars were for Kramer Vs. Kramer (Supporting Actress) and Sophie’s Choice (Actress).
Octavia Spencer, from The Help, was named Best Supporting Actress earlier in the evening. Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for Beginners. In his acceptance speech he noted that, at 82, he is only two years younger than Oscar.
Dujardin’s closest competition was believed to be The Descendants star George Clooney, who played a cuckolded husband whose wife is dying in director Alexander Payne’s drama set in Hawaii. On the Oscar red carpet, Clooney, 50, told ABC, “I have a feeling at the end of the Best Actor race, you’re going to hear someone speaking French.”
Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris were honored, for their adapted and original screenplays, respectively.
For a complete list of Sunday’s Oscar winners, click here.